Tolstoy’s Kreutzer Sonata

Kreitserova sonata (The Kreutzer Sonata)
R: Vladimir Gardin. B: Vladimir Gardin (screenplay), Leo Tolstoy (novel). K: Aleksandr Levitsky. Ba: Boris Mikhin. D: Boris Orsky, Yelizaveta Uvarova, Lidiya Sychyova. P: Thiemann & Reinhardt. RUS 1914

“According to Tolstoy’s wife Sonia, the idea for The Kreutzer Sonata (1890) was given to Tolstoy by the actor V.N. Andreev-Burlak during his visit at Yasnaya Polyana in June 1887. In the spring of 1888 an amateur performance of Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata took place in Tolstoy’s home and it made the author return to an idea he had had in the 1860s. The Kreutzer Sonata is written in the form of a frame-story and set on a train. The conversations among the passengers develop into a discussion of the institution of marriage. Pozdnyshev, the chief character, tells of his youth and his first visits to brothels, and his subsequent remorse and self-disgust. He decides to get married and after a brief engagement, he and his wife spend a disastrous honeymoon in Paris. Back at Russia the marriage develops into mutual hatred. Pozdnyshev believes that his wife is having an affair with a musician and he tries to strangle her, and then stabs her to death with a dagger. He accuses society and women who inflame, with the aid of dressmakers and cosmeticians, men’s animal instincts.
After writing the novel Tolstoy was accused of preaching immorality. The Chief Procurator of the Holy Synod wrote to the tsar, and this marked the beginning of the process that led ultimately to Tolstoy’s excommunication. Tolstoy was forced to write in 1890 a postscript in which he attempted to explain his unorthodox views.”
Books and Writers

“Innovative use of the exterior panning shot was relatively rare in Russian silent cinema prior to the 1920s, and it is a tribute to the resourceful spirit of Chardynin and Zavelev that they could devise and successfully execute such a masterly sequence. Panning shots within the studio were also rare, but here also, in the hands of enterprising directors and camera operators, they could be employed to great dramatic effect. Levitskii’s horizontal panning shot in reel two of Kreitserova sonata (The Kreutzer Sonata, 1914), the screen adaptation of Tolstoi’s novella directed by Vladimir Gardin for the‘Golden Series’, is one such example. The mise-en-scene in this sequence is experimental in the sense that the space of the stage is divided vertically into two interconnecting spheres, a staging both in depth and in width. In the first part of this sequence, Poznyshev, played by Boris Orskii, has been searching for his wife, played by Elizaveta Uvarova. Having failed to locate her in the recessed room situated in the centre of the frame, he moves towards the camera, and then leftwards, followed by the camera, to reveal a second space, also staged in depth, which is occupied by his wife. This is an unusual and interesting example of décadrage, the two characters at this juncture occupying approximately only one third of the frame. This off-balance arrangement, which is repeated in reel three, conveniently emphasizes their growing separation and dislocation, and at the same time, paradoxically, the sense of claustrophobia which oppresses them. Furthermore, it signals an awareness of the limitations of the editing cut, a device which, in this particular instance, would have negated thesymbolic significance of the spatial arrangement.”
Philip Cavendish: The Hand that Turns the Handle: Camera Operators and the Poetics of the Camera in Pre-Revolutionary Russian Film. In: THE SLAVONIC AND EAST EUROPEAN REVIEW. Vol. 82, No 2, April 2004, p. 219